Syria crisis and the scars of war

Published : 14 Jun 2021 08:10 PM | Updated : 15 Jun 2021 12:42 AM

Now in its 11th year, the Syrian refugee crisis remains the world’s largest refugee and displacement crisis of our time. Since the Syrian civil war officially began on March 15, 2011, families have suffered under brutal conflict that has killed hundreds of thousands of people, torn the nation apart, and set back the standard of living by decades.

About 6.6 million Syrians are refugees, and another 6.2 million people are displaced within Syria. Nearly 11.1 million people in Syria need humanitarian assistance. And about half of the people affected by the Syrian refugee crisis are children.

Healthcare centers and hospitals, schools, utilities, and water and sanitation systems are damaged or destroyed. Historic landmarks and once-busy marketplaces have been reduced to rubble. War severed the social and business ties that bound neighbours to their community.

Continued conflict has created economic despair. “On top of the strain on families’ ability to secure basic food rations and household items, the economic impact of the war continues to drive serious child protection concerns, including negative impacts on education,” says Barrett Alexander, a senior policy advisor for World Vision. “Parents are forced to remove children from school due to the inability to pay fees, and teachers are not receiving their salaries. Some children go to schools in the displacement camps but arrive covered in mud, having walked miles upon miles to attend. Many girls who drop out of school are severely impacted by child marriage.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has also exacerbated the poverty and joblessness faced by refugees. At least 1.1 million Syrian refugees and displaced people in Syria have been driven into poverty as a result of the pandemic, according to a December 2020 report by the World Bank Group and the U.N. Refugee Agency.

Help refugee children and families fleeing violence.

For many Syrian children, all they have known is war. Their grim circumstances have had an extreme effect on their mental, physical, and social health, jeopardizing the future of children who will one day need to rebuild Syria.

Syria’s army has been regaining territory since late 2015. Only governorates in the northeast and northwest remain outside government control.

Humanitarian groups are unable to access many conflict areas, so there’s limited knowledge of civilians’ needs.

More than 80% of Syrians live in extreme poverty, on less than US$1.90 a day.

With hundreds of thousands of people newly displaced in northern Syria, aid groups are struggling to meet their needs for shelter, access to clean water, and food. Syrians fleeing conflict in their country often leave everything behind. They’re in need of the basics to sustain their lives: food, clothing, healthcare, shelter, and household and hygiene items. Refugees also need reliable access to clean water, as well as sanitation facilities. Children need a safe environment and a chance to play and go to school. Adults need employment options in cases of long-term displacement.

You can help Syrian refugees by praying for them, using your gifts for their benefit, and learning more about the Syrian refugee crisis.

The Syrian civil war started when major conflict broke out on March 15, 2011, after a forceful crackdown on peaceful student protests against the government of Bashar al-Assad. Conflict continues with insecurity in parts of the country. The consequences are tragic for civilians, particularly children.

Young people took to the streets in Syria’s southern city, Daraa, in March 2011, seeking government reforms. The movement was part of the social media-fueled Arab Spring that swept through the Middle East and North Africa. March 15, 2011 dubbed the “day of rage,” was a turning point, which is why it is internationally recognized as the anniversary of the Syrian civil war.

As protests spread through Syria, they were countered by strong government crackdowns and increasing violence from both government forces and protesters. By the following year, Syria was embroiled in a civil war, with the Syrian military opposing a growing number of militant groups. 

Conflict has torn apart the lives of millions of Syrian children and families as government forces and militant groups fight to take and rule territory, resulting in what is now known as the Syrian refugee crisis.

The country’s weakened governance, as well as the destruction of its social services and institutions, make Syria a textbook case of a fragile state.

Within Syria, only 53% of hospitals and 51% of healthcare facilities are fully functional, and more than 8 million people lack access to safe water. An estimated 2.4 million children are out of school. Conflict has shattered the economy, and more than 80% of the population lives in poverty.

Syrian children, the nation’s hope for a better future have lost loved ones, suffered injuries, missed years of schooling, and experienced unspeakable violence and brutality.

The majorities of Syria’s 6.6 million refugees, about 5.6 million, have fled by land and sea across borders to neighboring countries but remain in the Middle East.

Turkey — 3.6 million Syrian refugees are in Turkey. About 90% of Syrian refugees in Turkey live outside of refugee camps and have limited access to basic services.

Lebanon — 865,531 Syrian refugees make up about one-eighth of Lebanon’s population. Many live in primitive conditions in informal tent settlements which are not official refugee camps. With few legal income opportunities, they struggle to afford residency fees, rent, utilities, and food. Jordan — 663,507 Syrian refugees are in Jordan. Some 120,000 people live in Za’atari and Azraq refugee camps, where aid groups have converted desert wastes into cities.

Iraq — 243,121 Syrian refugees are in Iraq. Most are in the Kurdistan region in the north where more than a million Iraqis fled to escape ISIS. Most refugees are integrated into communities, putting a strain on services.

Egypt — 130,577 Syrian refugees are in Egypt.

At the peak of the European migrant crisis in 2015, 1.3 million Syrians requested asylum in Europe. But the number of new asylum seekers has declined significantly since then.

In contrast, the United States admitted 18,000 Syrian refugees between October 2011 and December 31, 2016. Washington state resident Cari Conklin greeted the first Syrian family to arrive in Seattle (November 2015) — Bassam Alhamdan, his wife, Rabah, and their six children. They had escaped hell in Syria, suffered terribly as refugees in Jordan, and then were given the opportunity to come to the U.S.

The crisis in Syria requires a global response if there is to be an end to the war and the suffering of the people of Syria. Development and Peace has been campaigning for peace in Syria by calling on the Canadian government to do everything in its power to protect civilians in Syria and to end the conflict through diplomatic means. It has also joined the Caritas Internationalis campaign Syria: Peace is Possible, which was launched with an important message from Pope Francis. But the crisis still continues.

Anwar A. Khanis an independent political analyst who writes on politics, political and human-centred figures, current and international affairs.